Preparing mass amounts of food in the beginning of each week to pack for your lunches at work or to keep at home for dinner not only promotes healthier dieting, but it also saves you significant amounts of cash. By setting out a meal plan to meet your fitness goals and track your caloric intake, you will have greater control over the healthy gains you are trying to make.

In college and early adulthood many of us become accustomed to cafeteria plans and pre-prepared hot meals that don’t teach us healthy, money-saving eating habits. A $6 sandwich for lunch and a $9 entree from our favorite Thai restaurant for dinner does not seem like a lot, but spending $15 everyday on those two meals adds up to $450 per month. Meal-prepping is a healthy money-saving alternative.

Start by replacing one meal per day

Our recommendation is to start by preparing a week’s worth of lunches on a Sunday afternoon. In order to consume all the nutrients, fiber, and protein we need for such an important meal, we like to focus on three main groups of food that are easy to prepare and pack away for lunch.

1. Acquire tupperware: Go on amazon and get yourself a set of tupperware containers that are freezer and microwave-safe. We recommend this set of meal prep containers. Only $15 and comes with a set of 7 containers, one for every day of the week.

2. Plan out 3 healthy food groups: We usually go with one serving of lean protein, one serving of dark green steamed veggies, and one serving of a healthy grain or beans. For your first meal-prep week, try packing one serving of healthy refried beans (no cooking required, each can only costs 89 cents), one serving of steamed veggies (we will cover how to prepare later), and one serving of baked chicken.

Go to the grocery store and buy ingredients

Since the refried beans do not require any preparation, you only need to plan for the chicken and steamed veggies. Plan to consume 1 chicken breast per lunch, so purchase a pack of 5 (if you are planning for your work week). For vegetables, buy one packet of baby carrots and 1 lb of pre-cut broccoli.

Preparing your food

Although we will not cover the preparation process extensively, we do want to mention that steaming your vegetables and baking your chicken are the healthiest choices. For seasoning, go with low-sodium choices.

For preparing your chicken breasts, click here for a simple baking recipe (you only need salt, olive oil, creole flavoring, and chicken).

For preparing your steamed veggies, click here for simple instructions.

Caloric intake

Beans: We like to include refried beans because they are rich in fiber and healthy fats, and promote healthy muscle growth and digestive wellness.

One serving (¾ cup) of refried beans is approximately 185 calories.

Steamed vegetables: If you are consuming ¾ cup of mixed steamed vegetables (broccoli/cauliflower/carrots), you are looking at about 40 calories of this rich superfood.

Chicken breast: The approximate calorie count for one chicken chicken breast is 145 calories, with over 25 grams of lean protein.

Approximate total caloric intake for lunch: 370 calories

Note: beans can be substituted for healthy grains such as quinoa or brown/mixed rice

Cost

Although preparing food is slightly time consuming and must be planned for in advance, you are certain to save money in the process. The above mentioned plan should come out to approximately $2 per meal (if you are buying produce and meat at market price). If you are currently accustomed to spending $6 for a sandwich every lunch at your local subway, you will be saving $4/day. In effect, that would save you over $120/month, and that’s just for replacing one meal a day!

You will be healthier

Needless to say, planning to include these important food groups everyday for lunch will provide you with enormous health benefits. Simply by replacing one meal a day with a healthy planned-out lunch, you will reach your fitness and health goals in a more efficient, cost-effective way!